how all the pieces fit together

OK, almost a month old, but great.

Paul Ford, of renown, on leaving his job:

You know what happened, really and without irony? I had an opportunity to be an editor at Harper’s, to edit pieces for the magazine. It was something I expected to really want. I had wonderful editors to learn from. I did a little of it for print and a lot for the web. I wasn’t bad at it, even. Not great, but not bad. I could have been a respected editor instead of a huge nerd. But all the editing in the world can’t compare to building little websites and mangling text and writing things and messing around in spreadsheets and figuring out what’s wrong with comments. I wake up thinking about how all the pieces fit together and I want to do more of it and with lots of people. I plan to be scared and exhausted most of the time. So far that’s working.

More at the Awl.

An Embarrassment of Riches

In the last week I finished both my MBA program and Infinite Jest. The former took longer than the latter, but seriously not by much!

I’ve been stockpiling a list of reading to explore once I finished. There are a lot of inspiring people out there — can’t wait to dive into this as I get to work.

On my list:

What Matters Now: Seth Godin + a ton of great contributers

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A Brief Guide to World Domination: Chris Guillebeau

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How to Bring a Product to Market: Venture Hacks interview with Sean Ellis

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Animanifesto: a burst of explanatory video

I started thinking when I saw this nice 3-minute infographic-y video perspective on “the future of computing,” via my bro at Crunchgear.

Trillions from MAYAnMAYA on Vimeo.

Interesting content, but I especially love the production – the way the animation matches up with the story-telling, conveying all the points more clearly by visualizing the metaphors. This is easy to do, but hard to do well, and they nail it here.

Question 1:
Is there a name for this type of short burst of video/animation with voiceover explanation or perspective of some sort? It’s not really interactive – it’s more one-way, like a manifesto. I lump videos like this together with the great Common Craft explanatory shorts and think of them all as pioneering a new type of manifesto production, the way ChangeThis was able to do for a variety of interesting content with their nicely-designed PDFs. I didn’t really “get” ChangeThis when it came out (and still don’t really), since it didn’t embrace the interactivity that the 2000s-era web enabled, but I do respect them for knowing their niche and focusing on it. Back to the videos – would it be terrible if I called these “animanifestos?” Google says 99 hits, so it sounds like it’s wide open territory, but of course that’s with SafeSearch on – God knows what I’d find if I turned it off.

Question 2:
What animation/design tools are the Trillions folks using? Are there custom tools that cater toward infographic-heavy static or animated production? If not, what might those tools incorporate? I could imagine some sort of deep Wolfram Alpha-like incorporation of data into the actual production tools that facilitate easy visual manipulation of information. I’m thinking at most basic a hopped-up PowerPoint/Excel…wait – now that I’m thinking about this, didn’t Hans Rosling’s Trendalyzer already get bought by Google? WHERE’S MY JET PACK?

End manifesto.

Making a living on the web: 1000 true fans

You can always count on Kevin Kelly to sense the emerging dynamics of a system and crystallize his insight into a simple and compelling idea that he freely shares with everyone. Then this idea spreads into collective understanding such that it is hard to imagine how one actually viewed the issue beforehand. It’s almost uncanny how consistent this is.

Kevin is at it again with a recent blog post articulating a strategy for creatives to make money on the web through building and maintaining a moderately-sized patronage system, a model he calls 1000 True Fans.

…The long tail is a decidedly mixed blessing for creators. Individual artists, producers, inventors and makers are overlooked in the equation. The long tail does not raise the sales of creators much, but it does add massive competition and endless downward pressure on prices…Other than aim for a blockbuster hit, what can an artist do to escape the long tail?

Young artists starting out in this digitally mediated world have another path other than stardom, a path made possible by the very technology that creates the long tail. Instead of trying to reach the narrow and unlikely peaks of platinum hits, bestseller blockbusters, and celebrity status, they can aim for direct connection with 1,000 True Fans.

Definitely read the whole post for the full effect. I think Kevin’s observations and insights hold true not just for individual artists, but for a new generation of niche web services that are not necessarily designed to go viral and attract millions of users, but will instead leverage the 1000 true fans strategy to make a decent living for their creators. We are seeing this already with an explosion of small social networking sites, but I have a feeling there are many more of these human-scale services to come.